Monday, August 01, 2005

Chassidim and Misnagdim

I was asked by a talmid at Ohr Somayach to compile a list of distinctions between Chassidim and Misnagdim. This is too short and sharp to be accurate, so take it as a springboard. The middos used here for comparison purposes are taken from the Table of Contents of Otzaros HaMussar by R' Moshe Tzuriel shlita.

Issue

Misnagdim

Chassidim

Ahavah

Downplayed and underdeveloped theme; too elusive to define and too dangerous to use as a focus.

Central theme (although not much time is spent developing it); essential for Dveykus.

Achilah U'Shesiyah

A physical activity only moderately elevated by Torah and Zemiros .

An essential catalyst for Ahavah ; for Ha'olas Nitzotzos . Meals with Toiroh and Niggunim are core experiences.

Emes Va”Sheker

Unrelenting focus on reality, to the detriment of possible ecstacy – is it for real?

A little blurry at the edges: If the experience is uplifting, does it matter if it's “really real?”

Bushah V'Azus

Harbors doubt, sometimes lacks confidence.

Bold and confident in the service of core values.

Bitachon

Hashem has his plans.

Everything is Good!

Ga'avah V'Anavah

Takes pride in personal accomplishments, built on drive. Tool for aliyah .

Bittul – negation of self; role in system more important than personal satisfaction.

Dveykus Ba'Hashem

Nice, but not essential

It's Everything!

Dibbur U'Shesikah

Intellectual conversation most important.

Chassidic stories most important.

Derech Eretz, Nikayon, Seder

Essential to Mussar-refinement.

Not inspirational, not particularly important.

Hakoras Tovah

A logic

An emotion

Zerizus V'Atzlus

Is of greater value than more profound kavanah .

Is of lesser value than profound kavanah.

Chaver, Shachen, Nosei B'Ol

About the same.

About the same.

Chesed V'Rachamim

Only when not learning.

A legitimate option instead of learning.

Yirah

Central theme. Mostly onesh , some romemus.

Secondary theme. All romemus , little onesh .

Kavod

Can be used as a shelo lishmah , major emphasis on Kavod HaTorah .

Preferable to eradicate, with the exception, obviously, of Rebbes.

Kavanah when performing Mitzvos

Nice, but tafel – not worth bending the rules.

Important, an ikkar – worth bending the rules.

Ka'as, Refraining from

Very Important.

Very Important.

Lev Tov

Very Important, but not as much as Torah.

Very important, but not as much as Dveykus .

Limud Torah

Everything.

Important – for some, very important, but not Everything.

Tzenius

Very Important.

Very Important.

Kiruv

Positive attitude, at least in theory.

Except for Chabad and Breslov, neutral or negative attitude

Shalom U'Machlokes

We pay lip service to shalom, but in reality...

We pay lip service to shalom, but in reality...

Simchah V'Atzvus

Not much attention paid to these concepts. Some Misnagdim are pretty depressed.

A lot of attention. In theory, and often in practice, Chassidim are happy, avoid sadness, and are more happy-go-lucky.

Tochachah, Kana'us, Chanufah

Not much attention.

Not much attention.

Teshuvah

Very Important.

Very Important.

Avodas HaShem

Intellectual.

Emotional.

Note: Early readers notes three other important differences that must be noted:

  1. Mikveh . Chassidim stress the need for extra taharah as facilitation of dveykus ; Misnagdim find no greater source of taharah than Torah – and, anyway, are not big on dveykus.

  2. Levush . Chassidim stress the religious significance of dress to a greater extent than Misnagdim . The stress is evidently an externalization of the quest for dveykus . For Misnagdim , dress is more a matter of social identity and cohesion.

  3. Connection to Tzaddikim . For Chassidim this is a part of the quest for dveykus – the tzaddik is the devek . For Misnagdim , the leader is more of a teacher and counselor.

40 comments:

  1. Some comments on this post can be found at:

    http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/08/hassidim-and-misnagdim.html

    (Thanks to RGS, who has one of the most popular - and thoughtful - blogs in the Torah world, for the plug!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Dveykus Ba'Hashem


    Nice, but not essential "

    I think what you mean is that they have a different concept of dveykus. It is a mitzvas asey after all, they just think it's accomplished via torah.

    Same goes for what you call deemphasis on ahava.

    "YirahCentral theme. Mostly onesh , some romemus. "

    not really true at all.

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  3. Well, the mitzvah is not defined quite the way Chassidim define dveykus:


    ספר המצות להרמב"ם - מצות עשה
    מצוה ו - היא שצונו להדבק עם החכמים ולהתיחד עמהם ולהתמיד בישיבתם ולהשתתף עמהם בכל אופן מאופני החברה במאכל ובמשתה ובעסק כדי שיגיע לנו בזה להדמות במעשיהם ולהאמין הדעות האמתיות מדבריהם והוא אמרו ית' ובו תדבק וכבר נכפל זה הצווי גם כן ואמר ולדבקה בו ובא הפירוש ולדבקה בו הדבק בחכמים ותלמידיהם וזה לשון ספרי וכן הביאו ראיה על חיוב האדם לישא בת תלמיד חכם ולהשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם ולהאכיל תלמיד חכם ולתת להם עסק מאמרו ובו תדבק אמרו וכי אפשר לו לאדם לידבק בשכינה והא כתיב כי ה' אלהיך אש אוכלה הוא אלא כל הנושא בת תלמיד חכם והמשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם והמהנהו מנכסיו כאילו נדבק בשכינה:


    ספר החינוך - מצוה תלד
    מצות החברה והדביקה עם חכמי התורה:
    שנצטוינו להתחבר ולהתדבק עם חכמי התורה כדי שנלמוד עמהם מצוותיה הנכבדות ויורונו הדעות האמתיות בה שהם מקובלים מהם, ועל זה נאמר [דברים י', כ'], ובו תדבק. ונכפל הציווי במקום אחר שנאמר [שם י"א, כ"ב], ולדבקה בו, ואמרו זכרונם לברכה [כתובות קי"א ע"ב], וכי אפשר לו לאדם להדבק בשכינה, והא כתיב [דברים ד', כ"ד], כי ה' אלהיך אש אוכלה הוא, אלא הדבק לתלמידי חכמים ולתלמידיהם כאלו נדבק בו ברוך הוא, ומזה למדו זכרונם לברכה לומר שכל הנושא בת תלמיד חכם והמשיא בתו לתלמיד חכם ומהנו מנכסיו כאלו נדבק בשכינה. ועוד דרשו בספרי [פיסקא דללכת בדרכיו], ולדבקה בו, למוד דברי אגדה, שמתוך כך אתה מכיר מי שאמר והיה העולם:
    שורש המצוה נגלה הוא כדי שנלמוד לדעת דרכי השם:
    ודיני המצוה כבר זכרתי קצתן:
    ונוהגת מצוה זו בכל מקום ובכל זמן, בזכרים, וגם הנקבות מצוה עליהם גם כן לשמוע דברי חכמים כדי שילמדו לדעת את ה':
    ועוכר על זה ואינו מתחבר עמהם וקובע בלבו אהבתם ומשתדל בטובם ותועלתם בעתים שיש סיפק בידו לעשות כן, מבטל עשה זה, וענשו גדול מאד, כי הם קיום התורה ויסוד חזק לתשועת הנפשות, שכל הרגיל עמהם לא כמהרה הוא חוטא, והמלך שלמה אמר [משלי י"ג, כ'] הולך את חכמים יחכם, ורבותינו זכרונם לברכה אמרו [אבות פ"א מ"ד] הוי מתאבק בעפר רגליהם. והרמב"ן ז"ל [בהשגותיו לספר המצוות מ"ע ז'] כתב, כי עיקר מצוה זו היא להשבע בשמו ברוך הוא לקיים מצוה, והראיה ממה שאמרו בתמורה [ג' ע"ב] מנין שנשבעין לקיים המצוה, שנאמר [תהלים קי"ט, ק"ו], נשבעתי ואקימה לשמור משפטי צדקך, והשיבו שם, ההוא מובו תדבק נפקא וכו'. כמו שבא לשם:

    ReplyDelete
  4. So why does RYGB side with the Misnagdim?

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  5. isn't it amazing how hits spike when r' gil gives you a plug?

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  6. "Well, the mitzvah is not defined quite the way Chassidim define dveykus"

    yes this is my point, that the difference is definitional.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 1. How do you know I side with the Misnagdim? Do I seem depressed? :-)

    2. It is, indeed, extraordinary.

    3. Granted, I am using dveykus in the sense of dveykus in Hashem.

    YGB

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  8. I know a bit about your family ;)

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  9. Ah, but what about my mother's family? :-)

    (And, for good measure, my wife is descended from Reb Meir Premishlaner.)

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  10. This is your bio in your own words (I went to look b/c I thought my memory was going):

    "My father loy"t was born in the town of Bechhofen in Bavaria, where his family lived going back to the 1500's. My mother loy"t was born in Basel and lived there for her formative years, so her upbringing was mostly Yekkish - her father zt"l was the Rav of the Austrittsgemeinde of Basel. Her parents, however, were Litvaks - my grandfather was born and learned in Telshe (although later in life he essentially became a Lubavitcher) and my grandmother a"h in Kelm."

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  11. "Ah, but what about my mother's family? :-)"

    Yes, I have heard a lot about your uncles. There must be some reason you don't want to follow in their (chassidisher) derech.

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  12. I just finished reading Allan Nadler's "The Faith of the Mithnagdim." His central point is that the Mithnagdim were tremendously pessimistic about the capacity of the average person to achieve anything of a spiritual elevation, and therefore the only way to Hashem is through talmud Torah. Since one could not achieve spiritual elevation from anything material, the only use of material things was to provide sustenence to the body so the soul could study Torah. Also, as the GRA pointed out, the life in this world was only a corridor to the next, and had little to no utility besides study of Torah. His analogy was to a sailor on a raft in a raging sea, trying to navigate to shore. The shore representing death and the next world. Not exactly a cheery world view.

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  13. Is it any wonder we're so depressed if we're constantly thinking about onesh as part of one of our central themes?

    ChaimP.

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  14. Nadler has a negative view of Mussar, and that taints his assessment. The GRA writes in his commentary to Mishlei that the main task in life is sheviras ha'middos - this is relevant to every man, woman and child.

    In addition, it is davka the GRA who said that one must study all branches of knowledge in order to fully grasp Torah - and especially music.

    Not quite like the stereotype.

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  15. Yiras Ha'Onesh does become depressive, which is why it is rarely advoacted, at least in American Yeshiva circles. but that doesn't mean it has been replaced by Yiras Ha'Romemus!

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  16. Very interesting, great post.. Do you think there is a toeles in teaching Chassidic Haskafos and attitudes to non Chassidic kids? Or will this just confuse them? Does Ohr Sameach teach any classes in Chassidic Thought?

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  17. I think there is great to'eles in teaching Chassidic thought to non-Chassidic kids. One of my jobs is teaching in Kushner Yeshiva HS in NJ and my chaburah of Jewish Philosophy students and I had a great -uplifting - time learning Chovas HaTalmidim after Pesach). Explained well and contrasted with other systems (which we did the first part of the year) means that they are not confused, but enriched (I teach the same way in OS and in the BY where I teach in Monsey with similar positive results). In OS, they also have the "Real McCoy" in R' Schorr, the son of R' Gedalya Schorr, and several other Chassidic rabbeim.

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  18. RE: clothing. How about Slabodka?

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  19. Slabodka did not stress the religious aspect of levush - I think rather the opposite.

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  20. Eilu v'eilu. Both views seem a tad too extreme at times, with a happy medium somewhere in the middle.

    I've heard it said that the primary machlokes between Chassidim and Misnagdim is the same as it was between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel. That Chassidim, like Beis Shammai, are more focused on the "mystical" ruchani aspects of people, and expect more in those areas, while Misnagdim, like Beis Hillel, are more focused on the perceived world, and what may be more pragmatic and attainable.

    Of course, since we recognize both the ruchani and gashmi aspects of Hashem's creation, both of these views are reasonable. And because it is so very difficult for anyone but certain gedolim to truly focus strongly both on the ruchani and the gashmi aspects of life, the split between Chassidim and Misnagdim is not only understandable, but perhaps, so long as they respect one another as did Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai, a very positive thing.

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  21. I was shocked that Nadler did not quote R. Yisrael Salanter at all in his book, especially since there are a number of important parallels in Or Yisrael that would have been relevant to various points of his. I once e-mailed him to ask him about it but he never responded. Your saying that he has a negative view of of Mussar answers somewhat the mystery.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Nadler on Mussar:

    FORWARD
    JULY 4, 2003 | current issue | back issues | subscribe |



    A New Twist on Old Ethics
    Mussar May Be About Obliterating Ego, But It's Handy for Road Rage, Too
    By ALLAN NADLER

    In one of the more unsettling lines in modern Yiddish literature — a genre hardly lacking in disturbing sentiments — a young man who has left the yeshiva for a secular life is rebuked by his former classmate:

    Don't you remember what our rabbi taught? He who has studied in the Mussar yeshiva will never again be able to enjoy his life! You will remain an emotional cripple for the rest of your days.

    The Mussar (literally, ethics) teachers, who boasted of their ability to "cripple" their own students, promoted a regimen of extreme self-criticism directed at ethical improvement that was practiced, to various degrees, at most of the Lithuanian yeshivas since the late 19th century. Mussar's emotionally demanding teachings have rarely reached beyond the cloistered world of the ultra-Orthodox community. Not, at least, before the most unlikely of conferences — "How To Do Mussar," held June 22 at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. The goal was to bring the awareness of Mussar to a more general and modern Jewish audience.

    This seemed an incredibly implausible aim, considering that the spiritual practices that sell best in our narcissistic society are, after all, "healing services" with guitars and lots of happy hugging; the advertised promise of religion these days is almost always to help one feel better about oneself. Mussar, on the other hand, insists that piety can only begin when one feels worse about oneself, when one is in fact "emotionally crippled."

    The author of the disturbing anecdote was the great Yiddish writer Chaim Grade, whose "Mussarniks" and "The Yeshiva" richly described the intensely introspective and ascetic life of the so-called "Novardokers." These were the students of prewar Lithuanian yeshivas, part of the larger Mussar movement, founded in the Belorussian town Novogrodek (Novardok in Yiddish), which once included more than 90 institutions. Grade was himself a Novardoker before he became a secular poet. His writings about this world combine nostalgia with satire directed against the destructive effects of the excesses he experienced while a student in the largest Novardoker yeshiva in Bialystok, Poland.

    The Hebrew word "mussar" connotes chastisement and ethics. These two different meanings were fused in the Mussar yeshivas of Eastern Europe, where ethical improvement was sought through a regimen of merciless obliteration of the ego and rigorous self-criticism. Aside from the study of the classics of Jewish ethical literature, the Mussarniks strove to attain these difficult goals through a variety of ascetic disciplines, most prominently deliberate self-humiliation. The most famous of these practices was entering a pharmacy (which in those days sold only drugs) and loudly asking for a bag of nails to showcase one's stupidity. Over time, the Novardokers became the most bizarre element within Polish and Lithuanian Orthodox society: The gaunt and ghoulish, terribly dressed, strangely behaved Novardokers constituted the darkest hue in the richly colored kaleidoscope of pre-Holocaust Eastern European yidishkayt.

    Along with the rest of Lithuanian and Polish Jewry, the Mussar world was decimated by the Holocaust. Although the study of some Mussar writings continues, it has been relegated to the curricula of a handful of small Mussar yeshivas in New York and Jerusalem.

    The demise of Mussar is not merely the result of the Holocaust. After all, most other trends of pre-war Judaism have been reconstituted in both America and Israel since World War II. But the demands of Mussar fly in the face of every postmodern social trend and psychological sensibility. It was therefore with no small degree of skepticism that I entered the JCC to check out the all-day Mussar confab. Hard to imagine that Mussar's doctrines of self-denial and humility could be marketed just a few blocks from the culinary riches of Zabar's and the corporeal vanities of Equinox.

    What I witnessed, however, was something most unexpected and compelling. Addressing a diverse audience of decidedly modern Manhattan Jews, speaker after speaker — mostly Orthodox rabbis — gave insightful presentations on how the old teachings of the Mussar masters can apply to the lives of contemporary Jews — even those with no Jewish background. Unlike many conferences of this kind, no ego was on display at the podium; nor did there seem to be any self-aggrandizing agenda on the part of the organizers, beyond imparting the spiritual and psychological insights of Mussar to the crowd. And those insights are refreshingly modest and practical.

    Mussar's understanding of the ancient Jewish concept of tikkun is a case in point. Unlike the mystics, for whom tikkun olam connotes the mystical reparation of the entire cosmos, or the post-moderns, for whom tikkun mandates a politics of meaning, the Mussarniks speak not of tikkun olam (fixing the world) but very simply of tikkun ha-midot (fixing one's personal traits). Several speakers, for example, addressed the distinctly modern, seemingly trivial, problem of "road rage" to illustrate how Mussar can help one channel the destructive power of human anger into positive, or at least less negative, behavior. As one speaker put it: "Just drive away; maybe given him a finger. There is no need to insult the other driver's entire lineage."

    The conference was the brainchild of Alan Morinis, a Canadian Jewish "convert" to Mussar, whose recent book, "Climbing Jacob's Ladder," narrates his own discovery of Mussar and provides basic guidelines on how to engage this rich, though recondite, Jewish spiritual tradition. Morinis's story takes the reader from far away (India, where he explored Hinduism and Buddhism) to Far Rockaway — where he met Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, the dean of a Mussar yeshiva who was to become his spiritual guide. Based on his experiences, particularly the degree to which Mussar has improved his life and brought him back to traditional Jewish observance, Morinis is convinced that Mussar has much to offer others with similar backgrounds. And so, with the financial assistance of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Morinis assembled an impressive group of rabbis from Israel and the United States, representing a variety of approaches to applying the wisdom of Mussar literature to the realities of the 21st century, for a truly unprecedented event.

    Some speakers at the conference, such as Rabbi Yosef Bechhofer — an editor at ArtScroll — maintained the "hard-line," namely that the central ideal of Mussar is the self-abnegating attainment of "the fear of heaven." Others, like Morinis, were more flexible in their adaptation of classical Mussar values, seeing them as pathways to personal growth and holiness not inappropriate to contemporary spiritual sensibilities. Despite this variety of approaches, however, no one at this conference seemed interested in diluting the Mussar tradition or providing easy fixes to the religious issues it engages. Convinced that Mussar alone addresses the most basic personal problems, the speakers were purists, more committed to the teachings than to their merchandising.

    But merchandising Mussar to a broad Jewish public is precisely the challenge facing its small circle of devotees. While Mussar teachings do address psychological and ethical problems and may have much to offer the average Jew, very skilled teachers will be required to adapt and recalibrate its harshness to the softer sensitivities of our age. To do so without corrupting the Mussar texts or diluting Mussar practices was the admirable goal of this conference's organizers. It is a tall order, to be sure. But, if the energy and message at the JCC's forum is a reliable indicator, with any luck — or as the Mussarniks would have it, with the help of heaven — one of Judaism's best-kept secrets might soon be out of the bag. That would be a wonderful development in an age of easy holiness that circumvents the hard personal work and assiduous learning that the Mussar tradition asks of all Jews.

    Allan Nadler, a lapsed Mussarnik and frequent Forward contributor, is director of Jewish studies at Drew University and senior adviser on academic affairs at YIVO.



    | current issue | back issues | subscribe |

    ReplyDelete
  23. "That would be a wonderful development in an age of easy holiness that circumvents the hard personal work and assiduous learning that the Mussar tradition asks of all Jews.

    Allan Nadler, a lapsed Mussarnik and frequent Forward contributor, is director of Jewish studies at Drew University and senior adviser on academic affairs at YIVO."

    What is particularly negative about this article?

    I also remember Faith of the Misnagdim as mostly about R Pinchas Polatzker, predating Mussar, and don't really see why quoting Ohr Yisroel would be relevant.

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  24. Rabbi,

    I downloaded this article and read it over Shabbos. Very well done!

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  25. The end of the essay picks up a bit, but surely the "crippling" theme, etc., creates a negative framework?

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  26. For Cloo Jew:

    Thanks, please try:

    aishdas.org/rygb/forks.htm

    ReplyDelete
  27. It's my own favorite essay. Can't get anyone to publish it, though.

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  28. From Avodah:

    David Riceman wrote:

    >
    > From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer"
    >
    >> I was asked by a talmid at Ohr Somayach to compile a list of
    >> distinctions between Chassidim and Misnagdim.
    >
    >
    > Several comments:
    >
    > 1. Is this sociology or theory? I think some fit into each category.
    >

    True.

    > 2. You don't distinguish between mussar influenced misnagdim, misnagdim
    > who are mekubbalim, and other misnagdim.
    >

    True.

    > 3. You don't distinguish between different types of hassidim (wholesale
    > vs. retail, Kotzk vs. non-Kotzk).
    >

    True.

    > 4. Certainly there's a lot of overlap between Maharalniks (e.g. Rabbis
    > Kook, Dessler, and Hutner) and Hassidim.
    >

    True.

    > 5. Nothing about the role of the rebbe?
    >
    > David Riceman
    >

    It's below the table in the additional points.

    KT,

    YGB

    ReplyDelete
  29. From Reb Harry Maryles on Avodah:

    "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" wrote:

    >> I was asked by a talmid at Ohr Somayach to compile a list of
    >> distinctions between Chassidim and Misnagdim. I put it in table form, so
    >> I cannot reproduce it for Avodah. The list is too short and sharp to be
    >> accurate, but take it as a springboard.


    Here are some of my thoughts.

    Although you alluded to it somewhat, I think you missed an essential
    point of difference, the concept of the Rebbe as the closest connection
    to God... the very conduit to Deveikus, without whom it would be nearly
    impossible to acheive. The concept of a Rebbe is indispensible to
    Chasidus. The reliance on the Rebbe in all matters of life... and the
    extreme honor paid to him as a near God-like figure is a common element
    to Chasidim of all stripes. And importantly, one becomes a Rebbe primarily
    (if not exclusively) through Yichus, usually a son.

    Eventhough Breslov has been without one for many generations, I believe
    they are the exception that proves the rule. The only other group
    without a Rebbe is Chabad and only recently became "Chasidim withiout a
    Rebbe". Many Lubavitcher Chasidim feel he is either still alive or that
    his reappearnce as Moshiach is so imminent that his relatively recent
    Petirah (or disappearance from the scene) is either irrelevent or some
    sort of signal of his imminent arrival.

    Misnagdim have no such comparble figure as a Rebbe. The honor and respect
    and loyalty for a Rosh Yeshiva is on the level one would have of any great
    religious knowledgeable figure and is usually based more on intellectual
    rather than emotional considerations. In the world of Misnagdim, the
    concept of a Gadol is what is valued. And a Gadol is generally accepted as
    such by consensus of many disparate yeshiva groups and it is almost always
    based on merit, not on Yichus. For example R. Aharon Kotler became a Gadol
    precisely through his own merit and did not inherit the position. When
    He was Niftar, R. Moshe Feinstein became the Gadol Hador.. also, through
    merit. He did not inherit his postion either. And a Gadol is usually is
    universally honored by virtually all Misngdim. But to a Chasid, such
    honr goes to their own Rebbe, each Chadidc group with a different one
    (although they usually repsect other great Rebbes as well).

    I suppose this has something to do with the emphasis of Deveikus by
    Chasidim versus the emphasis on learning by Misnagdim. Deveikus implies
    more of an emotional component. Ideas like Kedusha get more play by
    Chasidim than they do by Misnagdim. Misnagdim, who rely more on the
    intellectual component tend to therefore look to the learnedness of the
    individual rather then the "holiness".

    Then there is the idea of seperateness. In this, Chasidim also tend to
    be far more oreitned to appearances. They value looking a certain way far
    more than do Misnagdim (Although Misngdim value this as a concept too, it
    isn't anywhere near the degree to which Chasidim do). I base this on my
    own observations but it should be obvious to anyone. Chasidim wear very
    distinctive clothing designed to look distinct and very different than
    anyone else, specifically people in general culture. The purpose is to
    separate oneself as much as possible from the surrounding culture. This
    is done not only with clothing but with speech as well. Most Chasidem
    learn english as a second leanguage and are discouraged to learn it too
    well. They consider it too assimilationist.

    These are a few of the things which come to mind off the cuff.

    HM

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  30. More from Avodah:

    Yitzchok Levine wrote:

    > Rather than give a list that really does not in my opinion tell one much, I would suggest that you refer this talmid to Allan Nadler's "The Faith of the Mithnagdim" and Elijah Judah Schochet's "The Hasidic Movement and the Gaon of Vilna." These two books paint a detailed picture of the fundamental differences between Chassidus and Misnagdus, and give the reader a feel for the historical basis for the split between these groups. (I am sure that there are other books that can also be suggested by those on the list.)
    >
    > As an educator I much prefer that a student finding the answers to questions by spending time reading and hopefully thinking about things. Giving him or her a list tends to downplay this and encourage "quick, easy answers" to complex issues.
    >
    > Yitzchok Levine

    If one uses the list as a synopsis of issues that were discussed in the past, or as a springboard for further discussion and exploration, in my opinion the list is very useful.


    I cannot agree with your recommendations. In good conscience I cannot recommend books written by non-Orthodox writers for this purpose. Not because they are biased or inaccurate. Rather, for us it is not enough to have an intellectual command of the issues. We need to have Avodas-Hashem-ramification command of them. As such, books written by the academic community (the recent book on Reb Tzadok comes to mind) and certainly the n-O academic community, are not acceptable.


    I would recommend my "Forks" essay and its referenced sources as a good start... :-)


    YGB

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  31. In response to the legitimate complaint that I neglected Mussar, I have expanded the table. See:

    http://rygb.blogspot.com/2005/08/chassidim-misnagdim-and-now-mussar.html

    ReplyDelete
  32. "The end of the essay picks up a bit, but surely the "crippling" theme, etc., creates a negative framework?"

    That was more about navardok than mussar in general. I don't notice a lot of mussar types paying more than lip service to Navardok today either.

    Mind you, perhaps they should. This all Slabodka, all the time, no Navardok at all merged w/ the self esteem movement in an unfortunate way IMO.

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  33. I think by the time you get to the end it is not at all clear how much of Mussar he endorses, but if you see it otherwise I am willing to concede the point.

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  34. Jewish Action won't publish it? I believe you've published there before.

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  35. Actually, looking at his review of Mussar Kallah I, Nadler was happy with Mussar when defined as a kind of self-help aimed at the question "how to be a better Jew", but not once "better Jew" is defined in terms of yir'ah. Pretty much only the bein adam lachaveiro (interperson) and bein adam lenafsho (intrapersonal) aspects appeal to him.

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  36. Very well put. Afew more for your list.

    Chasidim don't look down at those who go to work and learn torah b'kviyus.

    Misnagdim look down at workers until they need them for donations.

    Chasidim don't argue with the Rebbe.
    Misnagdim find pleasure in upshluging the Rosh hayeshiva.

    Chasidim see the beauty in every moment of creation.
    Misnagdim remind everyone of pirkei avos. If you say "mah nu ilun zeh" mischayev benafsho

    Chasidim think sitting an hour in hisbodedos before davening is great for kavanah.
    Misnagdim think it's a total waste of torah learning time.

    The biggest difference of all is obviously Emotion vs. Logical. Both are needed to bring the world to a better place. I hope

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  37. Hmm...

    Reb Chaim, let me guess, you must be a Misnaged :-)

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  38. I'm a Yehudi and a member of the Hakbah Chasidus. My Rebbe feeds the world, he's got the biggest tish. Hay Koof Bais Hay, Hakbah

    ReplyDelete